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Visa Elevates Top Lawyers as DOJ Scrutiny Scuttles Plaid Deal

Jan. 12, 2021, 11:26 PM

Two top lawyers at Visa Inc. have taken on new roles as the credit card giant prepared for a potential antitrust battle with the Justice Department.

The Foster City, Calif.-based financial services company announced Monday its promotion of Kelly Mahon Tullier to the newly created position of executive vice president and chief legal and administration officer. The move came a day before Visa terminated its $5.3 billion acquisition of Plaid Inc.

The Justice Department sued Visa in November to block the proposed merger on antitrust grounds, though competition authorities in the U.K. approved Visa’s purchase of the San Francisco-based financial technology startup.

Tullier, a former deputy general counsel at Pepsico Inc. who has been Visa’s general counsel since 2014, has been replaced in that role by Visa veteran Julie Rottenberg.

Rottenberg, a former partner at what is now Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, has spent the past 13 years in-house at Visa, where she has been a deputy general counsel and head of U.S. litigation. Prior to her promotion Monday, Rottenberg’s most recent role at Visa was deputy general counsel and chief counsel for North America.

Visa chairman and CEO Alfred Kelly Jr. praised Rottenberg in a statement citing her “excellent legal leadership.” He added that Tullier’s expanded duties will allow her to “play an even more valuable role in advancing our business and representing our company externally with our range of stakeholders.”

Neither Tullier nor Rottenberg were available to discuss their promotions. Visa declined to discuss its rationale for the legal personnel title changes.

The Justice Department’s bid to nix Visa’s union with Plaid, which it agreed to buy a year ago this month, cited Visa’s history of seeking to head off competition from emerging rivals. Visa’s Plaid purchase would have reportedly given the acquirer access to 200 million consumer bank accounts and over 2,000 fintech applications.

Court filings show that Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom has been representing Visa in the antitrust dispute, which was tentatively slated for trial in September, while Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati has counseled Plaid.

Legal Firepower

Visa was busy hiring lawyers last year, recruiting chief compliance officer Obiamaka “Obi” Madubuko in September to replace Leonard Shen, who subsequently joined the board of Australian payments provider OFX Group Ltd.

Visa also added former Moody’s Corp. in-house lawyer Gustavo Aceves-Rivera as a Mexico City-based director of regulatory affairs and government engagement and picked up senior privacy counsel Laura Hamady, a former deputy general counsel and chief privacy officer at Alphabet Inc.-owned cybersecurity startup Chronicle LLC.

In May, Visa hired a new chief strategy officer in Christopher Newkirk, a Harvard Law School graduate who most recently served as an executive at Capital One Financial Inc. The latter saw former chief regulatory counsel Meredith Fuchs join Plaid in August as general counsel.

A jobs portal on Visa’s website shows the company hiring for several legal positions, including regulatory counsel and compliance roles focused on anti-money laundering, economic sanctions, and export controls.

Tullier was not among the five highest-paid executives at Visa in 2020, according to a proxy statement filed by the company last month for that fiscal year. Bloomberg data shows that Tullier owns $11.6 million in Visa stock. Tullier sold 76,220 Visa shares valued at almost $15.4 million in August, per securities filings.

Visa rival Mastercard Inc., which in November received antitrust approval for its $825 million acquisition of fintech company Finicity Inc., announced last month its hire of Richard Verma as executive vice president for global public policy and regulatory affairs. Verma, a U.S. Air Force veteran and former partner at Steptoe & Johnson, now oversees public policy, regulatory, and litigation matters at Mastercard.

Verma was a U.S. ambassador to India during the Obama administration and most recently served as a vice chairman and partner at management consultancy the Asia Group and non-executive director at T. Rowe Price Group Inc. Verma, who is based in Washington, reports to Mastercard general counsel Timothy Murphy.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com
Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

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